One Thousand Years
On YouTube, you can watch
an eleven-minute video of maps
changing, witness the longevity
of the Holy Roman Empire, territory
labeled Hapsburg, Byzantine,
or Ottoman. Poland is present
for centuries pushing back limits
of what is today’s Russia.
We don’t see the battles
at the bloody borders, do not hear
the clash of swords on shields
or the boom of cannons fired,
men shouting, the squeal and screams
of horses as they fall. Maps don’t
offer arrows to show the directions
of people fleeing, behind them
their burning huts and houses,
livestock killed and stolen,
remains in ashes, mass graves.
No scent of smoke or gunpowder.
Germany appears, swells, shrinks.
Countries whose names we know
are relatively recent. Sweden
comprised what Norway, Denmark,
and Finland are today. France
grabbed parts of Africa and left
a language. Borders shift and change,
not by votes or treaties, but through
conflict, war. Count the dead
and maimed. Where is the gallery
of portraits of the traumatized?
A thousand years of experience,
yet we still can’t get along.
The daily news shocks me.
Photos of destroyed homes
haunt me. Silly me. Humans
have always had to defend
their children and their homes,
their small patch of earth
planted with a flag.
Words of the Week
Conscripts are cannon fodder,
boys who don’t want to die
young, don’t want to shoot
women, old people, children.
Bodies in the streets. Blasted
apartment blocks. Debris, rubble.
Count the frequency of words:
casualties, tanks, diplomacy.
Now common words—
refugees, shelter, mortar fire,
bombed maternity hospital. Death.
No fly zone. NATO. Where can
a story turn after annexation,
assassination, a president deposed?
Protestors jailed. Visas, borders,
and deportations. Rules of engagement.
Appeasement. Geneva Convention.
War crimes and atrocities. The horrors
of no food, heat, or water. Sand bags.
Shelter in place. Freedom. Peace.
A civilization collapsing on TikTok.
Joan Mazza worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self, and her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The MacGuffin, Slant, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.